2014's Guardians of the Galaxy was an amazing film. It was a breakout hit about a Marvel team that no one, even Stan Lee, had ever heard of. The film was a departure from previous MCU films in that it was a snarky, irreverent science fiction fun-fest. 2015's Avengers Age of Ultron was a bloated, bland, soulless money maker that sucked all of the goodwill established by GOTG and Captain America Winter Soldier out of the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 falls somewhere in the middle. Whereas I loved The first film, I liked the second. The film is a fun bang-em-up CG spectacle with amazing digital set pieces, the best "de-aging" motion capture performance since Rogue One, and an awesome soundtrack of 70's and 80's cheese.
What's missing is the element of surprise that propelled the first film to such heights. The adage "lightning never strikes the same place twice" applies here, which is not necessarily the fault of the film, or its director James Gunn. The parts that made the original film work are here: flashy space battles, high body count, comedic banter between the Guardians, and signature pop songs from Awesome Mix Volume 2. Where the first film was an exercise in team building, director Gunn attempts to flesh out Star Lord's daddy issues and Gamora and Nebula's sister/daddy issues. There is even a kumbya moment as Rocket and Yondu come to terms with their messed up youth. The most well adjusted character is Drax who has come to terms with the loss of his family, and his role in his new Guardians family. New characters Mantis and Ayesha add to the mix, and Baby Groot is adorable (which ultimately proves life saving for the little sprout!) Speaking of Groot, his scenes constituted the majority of laugh out loud moments for me during the film's over two hour run. While the original film was full of opportunities for spontaneous gut busting, Volume 2's laughs were more forced, like I laughed because I thought I was supposed to. Many scenes were drawn out to the awkward point, as when Ego started reciting the lyrics to Brandy by Looking Glass, and doesn't stop.
The film is fun, action packed, visually bombastic, and will make a ton of cash. While containing more adult subjects than the original, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 will be a hit with families and fanboys alike, and sets up the Guardians' participation in Avengers: Infinity War. Walk, don't run to see the film and stay for the record setting 5 stingers during and post credits, along with the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. Then you will want to buy the soundtrack, obviously.